We selected three varieties from the east coast (which tend to have smoother shells and a slightly higher salt content because of the Atlantics heightened salinity) the Race Rock, the Watch Hill and the (aptly named) Forbidden. I was wracking my brain for what type of oyster condiments we had at home when it struck me! Molecular gastronomy. I was just reading an article a few weeks ago about how oysters and kiwis share a particular volatile molecule in common, specifically methyl hexanoate (I’ll be exploring more combinations like this in the reunion episode of the Curious Cook!) and because of this shared molecule, they should (hypothetically) taste good together. Luckily we were right across from the world famous Chelsea Fruit Market so I swung by to pick up some ripe kiwi.
But I couldn’t just slap a kiwi round on an oyster and still maintain my dignity as an amateur molecular gastronomist so I had to elevate it by incorporating kiwi into my all time favorite oyster condiment mignonette. In a classic mignonette, brunoised shallots are quick pickled in sherry vinegar with coarsely ground black pepper. I’ve been told, but am not sure if I believe it, that oysters were originally served with an acidic component like a mignonette or lemons because when you drip this acid on your freshly shucked mollusk the meat reacts because its still a live and thus safe to eat! So I substituted kiwi for shallots, pink peppercorns for the black and rice wine vinegar for the sherry.
Now that we had our components and were back at the casa, it was time to perform a highly scientific comparison of oysters; to each other without any condiments, and to themselves, some with kiwi and some without. After steeling our nerves and coating our bellies with a shot of some authentic Russian pepper infused vodka we cracked open a round of the Race Rocks (follow the link to my foodily recipe for specific instructions on making the kiwi mignonette and shucking oysters) On their own they were delicious, slightly briny little treats but with the kiwi mignonette they were perfectly balanced bites with sweet, salty, sour and a bit of earthy/floral notes from the pink peppercorns. The Watch Hills were equally delicious in their unadulterated state, but my father and I agreed that the kiwis added that special something. Now the Forbidden (which I alluded to them living up to their namesake earlier) were difficult to open but were well worth the effort as they were the most delicious of the bunch. We still had a dozen or so oysters left, but were slightly inebriated and past the point of caring about the subtleties of molecular gastronomy so we paired the last of the oysters with more vodka and beer.
All in all I believe the experiment could be called a resounding success, and while the oysters were indeed amazing with the kiwi mignonette, I honestly believe that they are best enjoyed simply shucked and served in their own sweet liquor. Ernest Hemingway said it best in his piece, A Moveable Feast.
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”